Hip-hop is actress and rapper Lil Mama’s first love, but she’s struggled to gain the exposure and record sales needed to be successful in the music business. Mama – born Natia Kirkland – is preparing to star as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in a TLC biopic, so she’s been fielding questions about the state of female kinship in hip-hop. The Brooklyn MC claims the unity shown between women in hip-hop in the 1990s is waning, and the premiere female rapper, Nicki Minaj is partially to blame.
In a recent interview with the Hollie Wood & Friends Show, Mama reminisced on what made the 1990’s a “golden era” for women in the rap game. “One of the things that makes me most happy about music is that I can look at a picture and see Da Brat, Missy, Lil Kim and I know Aaliyah is a singer but to see them all in one photo together hugging and laughing and really having genuine love for each other … I want to feel that with my hip-hop sisters,” she said.
There are few prominent female rappers with commercial and critical success. YMCMB rapper, Nicki Minaj, leads the pack, but Mama doesn’t think she’s using her platform to elevate her peers.
“It’s a lot of underground women who are trying to break through, but on a mainstream level the one person that I really hear on the radio is Nicki Minaj,” she said. “A lot of times, I hear her say. ‘I do this for women,’ and ‘I’m doing this for all of us,’ while she’s accepting a BET award, but other than that I don’t’ see her embracing any other women. I feel it’s time for female MCs to really start sticking together and start putting out some music.”
Mama isn’t the first female MC to wage war on Minaj’s sportsmanship. Rap legend Lil Kim has often said the Trinidad-born rapper isn’t interested in seeing other women prosper. But that’s the nature of rap and other fields where few spots are reserved for women of color. The same issues exist in modeling.
Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks were deemed as rivals before they were ever formally introduced and this caused immediate division between them. The continuous referral of Banks as “the new Naomi Campbell” when she entered the modeling world at 17 sparked the rift between the two and it only escalated from there. According to Somali model, Iman, purposeful rifts between black supermodels have been occurring for decades. She claims the media attempted to create a similar conflict between her and another prominent supermodel, Beverly Johnson, in the 1970’s.
African-Americans models are in demand for spring and summer collections since their complexions contrast well with the vibrant colors of designer collections, but work is slim in other seasons. This exclusion, combined with the media’s insistence that only one woman of color can reign at the top of a field at once, creates unbridled resentment and intense competition between women of color.
Though Rihanna and Beyoncé differ immensely in their artistry, the ladies are often compared. NBC’s now-defunct “Deception” series was considered the answer to ABC’s “Scandal” because both shows featured a black woman in the lead role. “Deception” didn’t last because it couldn’t compete with the rabid fans of “Scandal,” though the shows had different premises and plot lines.
Minaj may be the latest proponent of the “protect the throne” ideology, but there are no female rappers, other than Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea, to compete with the “Superbass” MC on the corporate, commercial level. So, though Lil Mama’s point is valid, it’s impossible to know if Minaj will embrace other emerging female rappers in the future.
There may be room for only one female rapper at the top of the charts, but this shouldn’t stop them from building a coalition of power and potential. Female rappers should follow the example of most males in the business, as Lil Mama points out in her interview.
“I feel like we shouldn’t bash each other on records and get in person and talk about how these is no room for another female MC, it’s only me F you. Even with the dudes they will battle and let you know, ‘You not nicer than me but at the end of the day we should be able to get together and enjoy each other.”
Chime in Clutchettes and gents. Is there room for only one female rapper at the top?